Elon Musk. Mark Zuckerberg. Peter Thiel. Steve Jobs. Jack Dorsey. Bill Gates. Jeff Bezos. The tech industry has long suffered from a well-known lack of diversity, but Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of psychological and brain sciences and director of the Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS) at UMass Amherst, is part of a group that’s working to change that.
Dasgupta is in a new working group drawn from academia, the tech sector, think tanks and policy, called Catalyze Tech, that has spent the last year crafting a research-driven approach to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts tailored for the technology community. The group recently released their Action to Catalyze Tech (ACT) Report, which has already been endorsed by a who’s who of both social justice and socially committed organizations, such as the NAACP and Annenberg Foundation, and tech companies, like Apple, Netflix and Google.
The ACT report is a blueprint for anyone who wants to promote DEI at their organizations, whether they are a CEO or manager, educator or advocate. It provides a set of actionable recommendations, resources and toolkits. These materials are suitable for companies of all sizes and at all stages of development. The primary goal is to create “open source” DEI best practices and gather them in a one-stop shop, so that any organization can help drive change both in their internal organization, but also throughout the wider world of technology.
At the heart of the report are four recommendations:
- Model and incentivize inclusive leadership.
- Operationalize DEI throughout the business.
- Share DEI data, metrics and goals.
- Transform pathways into tech for under-represented talent.
Each recommendation has a host of practical actions and strategies. Taken together, the recommendations and strategies aim to invite into the tech industry women, people from low-income backgrounds, first-generation college students and those who identify as BIPOC, and support their career advancement into leadership.
“My involvement in ACT combines my research and my commitment to ensuring that my work reaches beyond the Ivory Tower to affect social change on the ground,” says Dasgupta, who was asked to join the group by Oona King, the chair of Catalyze Tech and vice president of DEI at Snap, Inc., after King had read her work.
Dasgupta says that her involvement in Catalyze Tech is a natural extension of her work at UMass’s IDS. “All of the groups that are underrepresented in STEM, both at UMass and nation-wide, gravitate to UMass Amherst’s IDS” says Dasgupta. “What our institute does is to create a community of like-minded students, faculty and other professionals who care about the link between STEM and social justice. We also expand students’ networks by exposing them to industry mentors from diverse professions and identity groups, which helps position these students for professional success. As one example, just look at our Leadership Academy for underrepresented students in tech and engineering majors. This program, which is open to students beyond UMass, attracts students from across the Commonwealth, and increasingly, from out of state, as well. It teaches students about workplace culture and career advancement skills that complement their technical skills. It positions them to take the next leap into early careers.”